It only took a minute for 12-year old Erik Robinson to die while playing a macabre game called the “Choking Game.” His mother desperately tried to save her son when she found him with a Boy Scout rope around his neck, but it was too late. Erik was brain dead due to lack of oxygen, and mom had to make the choice to remove her son from life support.
Sadly, she is not alone. The only viable statistics run between 1995 and 2007, where 82 kids have died while playing the “Choking Game,” an act where people cut off their own air supply in an effort to feel the euphoria that comes when they begin breathing again. But a 2015 study by the University of Wisconsin looked at 419 choking game videos, that had been viewed 22 million times, and the conclusion the researchers reached was social media has “normalized” the behavior and increased the likelihood that viewers will follow suit.For many years, people would spread info about this “game” by word of mouth, but these days, it’s very easy for teens to find out how to asphyxiate themselves online. In fact, there are more than 36 million results for “pass out game” on YouTube, and over half a million results for “how to play choking game.”
As more kids fall victim to this game, their parents are banding together and warning others about the dangers of this game and the ease of finding out how to play it. However, they are hitting a lot of road blocks as schools aren’t willing to raise awareness about it and coroners aren’t trained to recognize it. In fact, many times they misclassify deaths due to the “Choking Game” as suicide. Sites like YouTube and Facebook are taking the videos down, but they aren’t taking them down quickly enough.
Most teens who play the “Choking Game” don’t see it as dangerous or realize that they could permanently damage their brains. Not everyone who plays the “Choking Game” dies, of course but plenty are left brain dead as in this video. Brain cells begin dying off in a matter of minutes if they don’t get oxygen, and the more you do it, the more the risk of permanent damage grows. There is also the fact that this feeling of euphoria can become addictive, which means some teens will do it over and over again. There is a push for more awareness about this dangerous act, and videos and presentations are being shared with school districts about how this game can quickly go wrong. Advocates are also pressing the CDC to research this game more, and the injuries and death that come from it.
Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of Identity Theft Privacy: Security Protection and Fraud Prevention: Your Guide to Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft and Computer Fraud. See him knock’em dead in this Security Awareness Training video.